Earlier this week I visited the National Memorial Arboretum. It was a beautiful place to visit. There are many memorials not only to service men and women but also for events like the 9/11 attack, for all children who have died because of terror attacks and wars, and for stillborn babies. It was a place to sit and enjoy the surrounding landscape, the river and the woodland and a place to remember those who had left us in one circumstance or another.
The guide book states ‘ Remembrance is living, changing and part of everyday life. It comforts those left behind and pays respect to what is past’. Remembrance is very personal and means different things to different people. The ancients built burial mounds for their dead as a memorial maybe, while today we have various types of memorials. There is a burial mound in the Arboretum.
We choose what to remember and what to forget. I have various items in my home that bring back memories or my parents and friends. My father was an accomplished carpenter and I have two chests of drawers in my bedroom that he made. They will last longer than I will as they were so well made. So each day as I use them I remember my father. I have a painting on the wall done by a friend who died a couple of years ago. He used to work with my father when I was young so lots of memories there.
We keep photos of our and our families activities and when we look at the photos we remember the events and those people in the photos. My son and I recently dedicated some woodland to a friend who passed to the Summerlands recently, so each time we visit we remember our friend and his life. As a druid, I remember my ancestors especially at the time of Samhain.
Remembrance is therefore part of my everyday life. Is it part of yours?
I bought some beautiful poppies (artificial ones) at the Arboretum. I love poppies and they are also a universal symbol of remembrance although many will not wear them on Armistice day as they believe the poppy glorifies war. I am not a believer in war and prefer peace but I am happy to wear a poppy to remember those who died in the war and that includes the many civilians who also died as a result of the war.
Loss is something that most of us see at least once a week. We lose our belongings for example. Sometimes we lose precious belongings, items which mean a lot to us. There is a big difference between losing a pencil for example, a twenty pound note and a watch that belonged to a member of your family that has long gone. Losing something precious like the watch makes us feel sad and even if we get a new watch it does not replace the old one in our hearts.
Losing a pet is even harder to deal with and the grief can last for many months. You never forget them or the joy they brought you but they keep a piece of your heart for ever. Many people have pets instead of children so when a pet dies, the loss to them is greater. Losing someone close to you is even harder than losing a pet. My father died in 1981, my husband in 1995 and my mother in 2003 so you would think I know how to grieve by now. What I have found is that each time someone close to me dies, it brings back all the memories of the previous deaths. So this week I have been feeling a deep sadness at the loss of a very dear friend.
If you search the internet you will find lots of help and suggestions to help you deal with your grief. Some of these I have found helpful, like keeping to your daily routine as much as you can. You may not feel like doing anything but it is good to actually do the housework or go shopping however painful it seems. There will be bad days but I found that the gap between the bad days and the good ones got longer and there became more of the good days. It takes time to come to terms with losing someone close to you. Anniversaries are the worst days but after the first year of grief you have got through most of those. It is important to try to do joyful things even though you feel sad. I have found that sitting in the garden watching the bees and butterflies helps me
Talking to others or writing a journal can also help. But I need to say that losing loved ones does not always happen through death. There is divorce and separation for other reasons and there are those family members who decide to shun the rest of the family and deliberately lose contact. Grieving also happens in these cases.
One thing to remember that whoever you have lost, they have a small space in your heart where you will remember them for ever and you will remember the good times not just the bad ones.
We are often told not to look back but to be ‘in the now’ or to look forward to the future. But there are various reasons why we can look back and times when it is good to look back.
I like to look back at my life journey so I can see what I have learned, or not learned as the case may be, so I can decide what I need to do next. I can reflect on my journey so far. I also like to look back in history to see how countries and people have changed over the centuries.
Looking back at my life can also bring to mind some wonderful memories, some which I have shared with others and some when I have made journeys alone. Yesterday I went out with my son and his partner to a local, wildflower farm. The sun was hot, the sky a clear blue, the flowers colourful and the butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies were out in abundance and stunningly beautiful. Tea and cake added to the day and it will be a day to remember when in years to come, I cannot get out to enjoy nature.
In my history/genealogy research, I am of course looking back, but I try to find out what life was like then, what people wore, and how they lived so that I am in a way bringing them alive. It enables me to see how much our world has changed in the last three or four hundred years.
So looking back for me is important. It enables me to make changes in the way I live my life and it also enables me to see how I do things differently than my ancestors. Do you look back and if so do you reflect on what you see? Does it help you to change the way you do things now? Does it help you to find out what is important in your life as it does in mine?
Here is one of the dragonflies from yesterdays memories.